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Fish-Ta(I)Les: Jewish Gold-Glasses Revisited

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Chapter Summary

About five hundred gold-glasses have been found in Roman catacombs, either embedded in the sealing mortar of the loculi or lying on the ground. Of these objects, fifteen have been identified as Jewish, not by the site of discovery, but by the motifs: the menorah, the Holy Ark, and the four species of plants for Succoth. These elements have been recognized not only as real objects used in synagogue rituals, but also as motifs that bear eschatological and messianic meaning. Yet, the most unusual iconographic motif found on the gold-glasses is the fish on a round table in front of a stibadium, a semicircular banqueting couch. This chapter explores this motif in Jewish art in relation to pagan and Christian iconography. Some observations are also included on the presumed original form of the gold-glasses and their use as well as their relation to Jewish ceremonial customs.

Keywords: Christian iconography; gold-glasses; Holy Ark; Jewish art; Jewish ceremonial customs; menorah; messianic meaning; Roman catacombs; Succoth; synagogue rituals



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